NASHVLLE, Tenn. – In one of the team’s most intense
finishes this season, Tennessee Tech hung on for a heart-stopping,
76-73 Ohio Valley Conference victory at Tennessee State Monday
night in the Gentry Center.
Sophomore Tacarra Hayes scored a career-best 41 points – tied for the eighth-highest game in school history and the top scoring game this year in the OVC – to lead Tech to the important road win.
The Golden Eagles improved to 12-14 overall and 7-9 in the tight OVC race with two league games remaining. Tennessee State, which had taken a three-point win over the Golden Eagles in January, saw its mark dip to 9-15 overall and 6-9 in the league.
Hayes was 13-for-20 from the field and 15-for-19 at the free throw line on the way to her 41-point performance. She also had nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.
She was the only Tech player in double digits, but several other Golden Eagles chipped in with clutch points. Kellie Cook had nine points and Tiarra Hopper added eight points and five rebounds. Kylie Cook scored seven including a key 3-pointer late in the game. Rachel Glidden scored six, including three free throws at crunch time.
TSU was led by Meredith Stafford with 23 points and six rebounds, including a pair of big 3-pointers in the final minutes. Oby Okafor added 11 points and 11 rebounds while Jasmin Shuler finished with eight points.
Tech pushed out to a 10-point lead in the fist seven minutes, going up 17-7 as Hayes scored 10 of the first 17 points. The Tigers worked the difference down over the next seven minutes, tying the game with 5:01 remaining. The score was tied a total of seven times in the first half before TSU took a 40-35 lead into halftime.
The Tigers were up 44-38 early in the second half but Tech came back with a 6-0 run to tie the game for the eighth time. The contest was knotted one more time, 57-57, with 7:56 to play before a free throw by Hayes put Tech on top by one. Kylie Cook hit a 3-pointer and Kellie Cook followed with a layup to lift Tech to a six-point lead, but that wasn’t safe.
The Tigers came clawing back with a 7-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Stafford with 5:23 remaining to put TSU up 64-63.
Nursing a one-point lead, 66-65, the Golden Eagles got a critical 3-pointer from Kellie Cook with 4:07 remaining for a four-point lead. From there, the Golden Eagles hit six of their next eight free throws, including two by Rachel Glidden with 41 seconds left for a four-point lead.
They proved to be the difference as Stafford hit a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left to cut the difference to one.
Glidden hit one free throw with 20 seconds to play and Kellie Cook came up with a steal with seven seconds left. The missed two free throws with six ticks on the clock, but TSU turned over the ball with two seconds left and Hayes added one charity toss for the final margin.
Tech has the remainder of the week to prepare for its next game, a Saturday night contest at Austin Peay tipping off at 7 p.m.